Updated ACAP Advice on Reducing the Bycatch of Albatrosses and Petrels in IOTC Pelagic Longline Fisheries
The incidental mortality (bycatch) of seabirds in longline and trawl fisheries continues to be a serious global concern, especially for threatened albatrosses and petrels, resulting in a Conservation Crisis being declared by the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) in 2019. There are currently 31 species listed in Annex 1 of the Agreement. Of the 22 species of albatrosses, 17 breed or forage in the IOTC Area, as do four of the nine listed petrel species. ACAP routinely reviews and updates the best practice bycatch mitigation advice for industrial fishing gear types, including pelagic longline. The most recent review took place in May 2023, at the 11th meeting of the Seabird Bycatch Working Group (SBWG11), with updates endorsed by the 13th meeting of ACAP’s Advisory Committee (AC13). This paper provides an update on this review and on other resources and information relevant to seabird bycatch in IOTC pelagic longline fisheries. AC13 reiterated and further endorsed current Best Practice Advice. ACAP recommends that the most effective way to reduce seabird bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries is to use the following three best practice measures simultaneously: (1) branch line weighting, (2) night setting and (3) bird scaring lines. In addition, three hookshielding devices and one underwater bait setting device are options incorporated into ACAP’s Best Practice Advice as stand-alone mitigation measures. Based on new research reviewed at SBWG11, the use of high-energy laser technologies for seabird bycatch mitigation is strongly discouraged by ACAP, since there is currently no evidence of effectiveness, and serious concerns remain regarding the potential impacts on the health of individual birds.